You know that girl with the seemingly superhuman mojo who always manages to fit in fitness?and into her skinny jeans. No need for envious glances. You can steal her playbook. Here's the research-proven forumla for success. Plus, athletes, stars and trainers share their tips.
Put the Fun in Fitness
Hiking a mountain for an epic, jaw-dropping view. Climbing over obstacles in your first Mud Run. Racing your bro across the lake in a bragging-rights-for-life swim. What do they have in common? The people doing these activities define them as fun, not workouts. Exercisers who are psyched (rather than reluctant) about a new routine spend 63 percent more time moving, research from Brown University shows. Makes sense, right? Enjoyment is a natural motivator, says Sam Zizzi, Ph.D., professor of sport and exercise psychology at West Virginia University.
If you like an activity, you'll make time to do it again and again. Can't imagine getting psyched about any kind of exercise? Bribery works! Promising yourself a postgym treat can give you the incentive to complete a workout, says Steven Bray, Ph.D., associate professor of health and exercise psychology at McMaster University. One "I did it!" mani-pedi coming right up.
Take Itty-Bitty Bites
"Some mornings, I can't get excited to work out, so I coax myself, promising that, if I bail along the way, it's OK. Putting on my gear, I think, 'Just grab your bag.' Then, 'Hop in the car.' Then, 'Swim one lap.' At that point, if I'm not in the mood, I go home. But you know what? That rarely happens." —Chris "Macca" McCormack, Ironman world champion
Never Stop Experimenting!
"To find a workout you love, try everything that comes your way. You can't immediately pass on a routine with a 'Well, that doesn't sound like fun.' You might be surprised by what you enjoy." —Kimberly Fowler, founder of YAS fitness Centers and creator of yoga for Athletes
Go to Your Happy Place
"To have a fun session, I know I have to take it outdoors. Being in the fresh air and sunshine helps me stay inspired, and it keeps me more focused and alert." —Maya Gabeira, world record holder in women's big-wave surfing
Make It Personal
To get sky-high drive, know exactly why you're working out, and make those reasons true to you, says Michelle Segar, Ph.D., a motivation researcher at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. "For most people, trying to meet someone else's expectations or assuage guilt isn't sustainable," Segar says. Register for a marathon just to one-up your superathletic sister and you may never cross the finish line. Try to lose weight to please your guy and the scale could tip the wrong way. Homing in solely on better-body goals, like slimming your thighs, is a no-no, too, says Jeremy Adams, Ph.D., a sport and performance psychologist and director of Eclectic Consulting in Melbourne, Australia.
Gymgoers who fixate on the physical payoff can lose their motivation in a couple of months, he explains, because it can take awhile to see the results they want. If you focus on why exercise is a positive aspect of your life, both Segar and Adams suggest, you'll be less stressed and more energized—and those sources of immediate, constant and meaningful inspiration will keep you hooked on breaking a sweat.
Put Fuel in the Tank
"I think of exercise as my energy. It helps me wake up early, power through a day, and juggle a job and a life. It's a cause-and-effect scenario—to do the things I love, I have to work out." —Mary Ann Browning, CEO of Brownings fitness in New York City